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New Study Reveals Alarming Connection Between School Discipline and Student Achievement, Highlighting Racial Disparities

In a recent cohort study, researchers delved into the relationship between exclusionary school discipline (ESD) and the academic performance of middle and high school students, with a specific focus on racial and ethnic disparities. The study examined 16,849 students from a large urban district in California over a 3-year period, seeking to answer whether ESD events were associated with lower grade point averages (GPA) and if minority students were disproportionately affected.

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in ESD

The study unveiled striking disparities in ESD events among different racial and ethnic groups. Black students experienced approximately 10 times more ESD events than their White counterparts, with an average of 6.69 events for Black students compared to 0.71 events for White students. Latine students also faced a significant number of ESD events, with an average of 2.01 events. This disparity in ESD events was a clear illustration of structural racism and its impact on minority communities.

ESD’s Impact on Academic Performance

The research found that experiencing an ESD event resulted in a lower average GPA for students, with an average decrease of 0.88 grade points for those who had such an experience in the first year of the study. This trend continued in subsequent years, with significant GPA decreases of 0.63 in the second year and 0.52 in the third year. Moreover, Black and Latine students suffered the most substantial drop in GPA compared to White students, with Black students experiencing a 0.56-point decrease, and Latine students a 0.51-point decrease.

Trauma and Structural Racism

The study revealed that the impact of ESD extended beyond academic consequences. ESD events can be considered as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and they may contribute to adverse health outcomes throughout a student’s life. Structural racism and its traumatic impact on minority communities increase the likelihood of these practices being more harmful.

Implications and Recommendations

The research underscores the importance of addressing ESD practices and their detrimental effects on students’ educational and health outcomes. It is crucial to implement alternative, non-exclusionary disciplinary policies, such as restorative justice practices and positive behavior interventions, to counteract the biases that underlie ESD.

In conclusion, this study serves as a clarion call to address the racial disparities in exclusionary school discipline and highlights the urgency of implementing measures to protect the academic and mental well-being of all students, regardless of their racial or ethnic background.

Source: JAMA Network Open Journal